Federal Grants React to Politics and National Concerns

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Even nonprofits that don’t receive direct federal grants often benefit from money provided by state, county, city or other organizations that pass-through federal support. The far-reaching arm of the federal dollar means almost all nonprofits feel the hurricane-force drama pouring out of Washington, D.C.

The new tax bill is fueling grave concerns that nonprofits will lose billions in individual contributions, and that spending cuts will result in decreased funding and increased demand for help. Medicaid cuts could hobble health services and risk the wellbeing of vulnerable people. Recent changes in the Interior Department’s review of grant awards, and the EPA’s stand on climate change funding echo like thunder clouds signaling changes in how other agencies handle award decisions.

Whether or not the worst fears of nonprofits materialize, one thing’s for sure—the seismic noise, turbulence, uncertainty, and acrimony in Washington are shaking the very foundations of the status quo. Federal grants have always been shaped by politics and national events, and the current scenario reflects that.

Will the ideal of objective grant reviews be tarnished by partisan intrusions? Will the bases of peer review scores, geographic distribution, and diversity of target populations in award decisions be upended by upper-level administrative preferences? Will earmarked grants re-emerge as a titan tool to reward congress members who perform a good lock-step?

As grant professionals, our jobs are to stay alert, stay the course, do good, mission-driven work, and exert influence where we can to guide the federal grants process in the direction we believe best serves the country. If you think something is wrong, speak up. If you think a process could be improved, offer your thoughts. Be clear about your position, be consistent, be persistent—and represent your profession in a well-informed, well-reasoned way.  And because federal grant funding will always react to the political environment, vote.

— Barbara Floersch, Executive Director


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